Guerilla grafting, and living off the fat of the land in Ypsilanti

A few days ago, I posted something here about a group in San Francisco that has made it their mission to convert non-fruit-bearing trees on public land into ones that bear edible fruit. They call themselves guerilla grafters. I think it’s a great idea, but, some, it would seem, don’t share my enthusiasm for giving people the ability to feed themselves. Following is a comment left here on the site by someone calling herself Grape Ape.

There is edible fruit falling trampled all over Ypsi. Apples, truckloads of mulberries and walnuts, wild grapes (&leaves) and raspberries… the real money is in tapping our maples.

Grafting seems like a solution trying to anticipate a problem. But tree fruit is probably the easiest dietary supplement to supply. My grandfolk proved one healthy apple tree can provide a household with pretty near a year’s worth of sauce. Maybe we can graft edible arugula into edible dandelion leaves?

Until someone figures out how to graft processed wheat into crabgrass and bacon into my skin-tags, it just reads as a publicity statement.

Truth is, right now more fruit trees doesn’t equal less hunger, but more people running to Walgreen’s for rat-traps, sting ointment and sale priced Chef Boyardee (99 cents a can!).

That doesn’t make the video less cool or prophetic… just less real.

If anyone would like to graft, talk to me. I promise to supply you with the addresses of more locally neglected fruit and leaves than you can can and digest in a year.

Grafting is a great picture of what we can do. But, if I’d shot the video, I would’ve asked the grafters where they got their food.

For what it’s worth, the subject of rats was brought up by the guerilla grafters in the video that I posted earlier. According to them, they won’t graft a tree unless they’ve already got volunteers lined up to care for it, and ensure that its fruit isn’t left to rot, attract vermin, etc.

As for Grape Ape’s assertion that we grow more than enough fruit in Ypsilanti to feed our population of 20,000, I haven’t done a thorough study of the issue, but I can’t believe that it’s true. While there very well may be apples that can be seen rotting on the occasional tree, I’d argue that it has more to do with the fact that people don’t feel empowered to pick them, than it does their diets already being so incredibly apple-rich that they couldn’t possibly eat another. So, before setting out to destroy all of the fruit producing trees on public land, I’d suggest that we first try letting people know that the fruit on the trees is edible, and that picking it isn’t illegal. This, I’m thinking, could be accomplished easily enough with a few small signs saying…. “Hello, my Ypsilanti brother. Have an apple. And enjoy your day.” I think that would be incredibly cool.

While signs like this don’t yet exist, our friend Lisa Bashert, and others, have already started the process of marking fruit trees and berry bushes on a publicly available Google map. Here, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is a screen capture.

The page is maintained by Sustainable Ypsi, but, it’s open to the public, so feel free to add any relevant food-related resources that you’re aware of.

And let me know if you have skin tags, as I’d really like to try Grape Ape’s bacon-grafting idea. (If it works, I’m fairly confident that I could put Beezy’s out of business. I’d just walk around town with a small herd of shirtless people, crispy strips of delicious free-range bacon dangling from their moles, armpits and assorted fleshy growths, allowing people to pick their own for a dollar a piece.)

Speaking of grafting, in the comments section following that last thread on the subject, our friend Doug Skinner passed along a brilliant piece of silent film starring the recently rediscovered surrealist filmmaker Charley Bowers. Here’s his 1926 film Now You Tell One. If you’d like to just see the part on grafting, you can jump ahead to the 5:37 mark. Trust me when I say that it’s worth it. I think it’s one of the most lovely things I’ve seen in years.

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  1. Eel
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone else enjoying just sitting back and watching the United States devolve into a third world country, where, instead of the talking about getting back to the moon, we’re talking about just being able to feed ourselves on river carp and free apples?

  2. Eel
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    And, for what it’s worth, free fruit will attract vermin. But the vermin will be us.

  3. ypsilanti kid
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    My sisters and I up in Ypsilanti. when we were kids, we scouted around gathering the local mulberries and raspberries that grew all around our neighborhood. We did this every single summer.

  4. Thom Elliott
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really understand what skin tags and bacon have to do with this idea of grafting fruit branches to other trees, but it has to be one of the most grotesque objects coupled together I’ve ever thought of, a disturbing image of human beings covered with flaps of bacon. The morbidity of the image creeping into an otherwise utterly mundane assertion leads me to speculate this Grape Ape has to be a burgeoning serial killer? Maybe he is just breaking into houses and observing the sleeping inhabitants for now, or is just following people around? Unsure of where the behaviours are leading, but also unable to stop the complusion? That sound right Grape Ape?

  5. Elf
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Who is to say that Bee isn’t already procuring her bacon from such creatures?

  6. Michelle Shankwiler
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Our family has made it a point to collect all of the things we can find growing here in ypsi and turn them into dinner! (or dessert!). Apples, mulberries, blackberries, grapes, pears, edible greens, the list goes on and on! My favorite part of doing this is when sharlene (7 year old daughter) finds purple cone flowers or dandylion flowers or bergamot and says “look mommy! Now we can make tea!” :) if we all did that, the world would be a better place! ;)

    The one thing that worries me though, is the thought of pesticides being used! Ewwwwww! So if you start to do the same thing, make it a point to harvest from areas that aren’t too likely to have used harmful chemicals!!! And wash well! :)

  7. Michelle Shankwiler
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    P.S. I have been pushing for edibles to be included in the Ypsi Pride plantings for the past few years. My thought- flowering vine beans make just as beautiful flowers as the ever invasive morning glories, chives are much more lovely and fragrant than annual impatiens etc… Etc… Just another random thought, lol.

  8. Edward
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks again to Doug for the introduction to Charley Bowers.

    Speaking of the carp in the Huron, are they safe to eat?

  9. K2
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think an orchard would be practical, as development could happen within the next few years, but what about turning Water Street into a temporary community garden? Is it too contaminated for that? It might be fun to plan wheat. I’ve always been interested in the process.

  10. Grape Ape
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    As I’m sure Mark is aware, I didn’t assert we grow enough fruit to feed our entire population. My assertion is that our population’s dietary preferences lean towards wheat and bacon over apples and walnut oil. And, I’ll add that most of our population isn’t willing to collect apples, dig out the worms, learn to process and can and so on. (Mark can counter, here, with how many pounds of walnut oil he’s processed vs. how much edible stuff rotted on his own vine). Despite the efforts of folks like Michelle, Lisa and many of my other friends, there are more public edibles rotting in town than being harvested.

    Visit the apple trees lining Perry — located in a so-called food desert. We’re just, currently, too well [sic] fed on cheap, processed crap.

    Once I have to fight with Michelle over “dibs” on a mulberry tree, it’ll be time to graft. (Michelle, have you ever had another harvester present?) My point is simply that supply currently far outweighs demand. It will take some education and behavioral shift to change that ,which is why I love Mark’s idea of labeling trees as open and edible and plan to add several locations to sustainable ypsi’s map.

    As far as bacon skintags, that might be a mute point. I harvested a couple of my skintags this morning, fried them up, and they tasted just like bacon (the fatty parts; cutting into the meat stung a little). I’ve already begun a supplement of growth hormones to increase the size and productivity of my homobacion (TM) skin tags. And, I’ve put myself on a very strict, corn-based-products only diet.

    I haven’t officially approached Beezy yet, but I’m pretty confident that “locally sourced walnut shell encrusted bacion(TM) and urbanbisque eggs (you don’t want to know) with mulberry syrup and groundhog tripe chutney” will be on the menu very soon.

  11. Andy C
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    I think picking fruit falls into to the “jobs Americans won’t do” category. Personally I’m sick of mulberry stains all over my bike frame. You can’t ride a half mile without encountering them.

  12. bee
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I’m not threatened, Mark. We can work together. I still have the us because my bacon fat waste is a) used to seal & sear delicious burritos and b) gets turned into soap. TAKE THAT SKIN TAG BACON!!

  13. Elf
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of posting signs saying, “Hello, my Ypsilanti brother. Have an apple. And enjoy your day.” That would be incredible.

    And if one showers with soap made from bacon grease, does that increase one’s chances of being eaten by hungry wolves?

  14. bee
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    no, I think it increases your chances of attracting them though; then you can dress it right there, eat the meat and get a great hat to boot.

  15. gary
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    i find most of my produce during the summer months in community gardens that people plant.

  16. Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    If I knew how to use Photoshop, I’d be creating images of people with strips of crispy bacon sprouting from their skin tags right now.

  17. Posted January 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Did everyone see the mouse with the gun in the Bowers film? Wasn’t that incredible?

    And doesn’t it make regular rats seems pretty easy to deal with in comparison?

  18. Benji the Dog
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Mulberries don’t taste so great, but they say the unripe ones are mildly hallucinogenic. What do you say?

  19. Posted January 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    There are plenty of mulberries on the Ypsi Fertile Ground map, but I agree, they are not my favorite. The last few times I’ve gone to my “secret” black raspberry harvesting site, I’ve encountered others picking. I thought that the Great Recession was causing others to start noticing all this free food. Just another thought: those blackberries are fermenting into a lovely wine right now in my basement, using nothing but sugar and wild yeast. You can make a very delicious (and trade-able) alcoholic beverage out of most any fruit — even rhubarb.

  20. Nathaniel T
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve lived in Ypsi for two years now, and I’ve yet to see a person that I’d eat bacon from.

  21. Mr. X
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    It looks like some planting is being done in Ypsi this weekend.

    From Facebook:

    Ginny Golembiewski
    Hazelnuts, elderberries and pears are getting planted around Ypsi next weekend and you can help! We can pick them up Friday April 20th or the 21st. Anyone have a preference on the day or time? Otherwise I’m thinking meet at the Corner Brew at 5:30 on Friday, we’ll run over some planting pointers and divvy up the bounty. Plants can be planted at your home but the intention is to have them become a harvest for the community so keep that in mind. Another step closer to an edible Ypsi. Thanks folks!

  22. Rustbelt Revival
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    This map was originally created by the Ypsilanti Urban Farmers in 2009 & can be modified by anyone. It began as a way to map existing & potential garden spaces in Ypsi, & includes community gardens, urban farms, & foraging places in the Ypsi environs. Most recently, it has been updated by myself & members of Abundant Michigan, Permaculture Ypsilanti.

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